run by each county conservation department. “These are
the groups that approve funding and someone needs to be
there to represent organic and help inform the decision-makers about how organic farming works,” she said.
As we go into the future, the same organic farmer and
processor engagement and activism that made the 2008
Farm Bill gains possible will be needed to ensure that the
benefits of these programs can be fully harvested for years
to come. At press time, proposals were already swirling
around to cut the funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and USDA had yet to release information on the implementation of these
programs. Actions such as this will need to be carefully
watched and scrutinized by the organic community. The
new congress will also be faced with many pressures on the
federal budget, and cuts to the organic research funding
and other programs will be proposed. In other words, all of
our gains have to be actively defended. This means being
vigilant about the implementation process and diligent in
protecting what we have won.
Beyond playing defense, however, we must also think
about leveraging these wins and gaining more ground. Central to this goal is ensuring that organic processors and producers make good use of the programs detailed above.
Toward this end, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has
created a Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides detailed descriptions of the Farm Bill programs (
organic and others) and how to access them. This guide can
be used to encourage the producers you work with to take
advantage of the new resources provided in the 2008 Farm
Bill. The Organic Trade Association also recently hosted a
conference on the Farm Bill and recordings of the sessions
are available at www.ota.com.
All in all, the organic sector did very well in this farm bill
and gained priceless political capital in the process. That
capital needs to be nurtured and expanded by individuals,
companies and associations by staying informed and taking
action. In early 2009 the attention will be on the Congressional appropriations process to ensure that we keep the
funding allocated in the Farm Bill. Stay tuned.
Zachariah Baker is the policy associate for the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). He can be
reached at email@example.com.
Mark Lipson is OFRF’s senior
policy analyst and can be reached at
OFRF is a nonprofit leader in grantmaking, policy,
education and networking initiatives that support or-
ganic farmers’ information needs while moving the public and policy-makers toward greater investment in organic farming systems. For
more information on the Farm Bill and more, visit www.ofrf.org.
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